Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Moral Climate Change and Freedom of Speech

Came across this speech by Tom Wright which for me gets so right all the problems with "political correctness" that bedevil contemporary society; what I term a kind of "social fascism" which cannot distinguish between rabble rousing (like the British National Party, or going back further Oswald Mosely), and a sober discussion of alternative positions. The failure of Tony Blair and New Labour to do this, with the new Equality Act clamping down on freedom of conscience with Catholic adoption agencies in a way that was never permitted with abortion opt outs, shows the trend towards the "thought police" of Orwell's 1984. The idea of an "Equality Act" should also make us uneasy; have they never read Animal Farm when they stick up the legislation that says "All Animals are Equal"?

Moral Climate Change and Freedom of Speech

speech in the House of Lords, February 9 2006

by the Bishop of Durham, Dr N. T. Wright


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lady, Baroness Knight, for the opportunity offered by this debate to address some issues that have become urgent in our national life. It would be a mistake, my Lords, to give too much attention today to the complex puzzles surrounding the Danish cartoons and their aftermath, or indeed the trials of Nick Griffin or Abu Hamza. These belong within a larger moral and social landscape, and it is that larger picture we must examine.

What we face, my Lords, is 'moral climate change', comparable to other forms of climate change and equally dangerous. The 1960s and 1970s swept away the old moral certainties, and anyone who tries to reassert them risks being mocked as an ignoramus or scorned as a hypocrite. But since then we've learned that you can't run the world as a hippy commune. Getting rid of the old moralities hasn't made us happier or a safer. We have discovered that we do indeed need some guidelines if chaos is not to come again. But once the foundations have been eroded, where will you find firm ground on which to build new moral fences? Can we, as a recent correspondent to the Times suggested, invent and agree upon two or three basic moral standards out of thin air?

This uncertainty, my Lords, has produced our current nightmare, the invention of new quasi-moralities out of bits and pieces of moral rhetoric: the increasingly shrill and polymorphous language of 'rights', the glorification of victimhood which enables anyone with hurt feelings to claim moral high ground, and the invention of various 'identities' which demand not only protection but immunity from critique.

It was this messy but potent combination of neo-moralities, my Lords, that generated the Religious Hatred legislation of which your Lordships, rightly in my opinion, took a dim view, and whose key elements were narrowly voted down in another place last week. It is the same combination which has produced a world in which it is thinkable for a University Christian Union to have its funds seized, and to be denied the right to meet, because it will not allow non-Christians equal membership. Many other examples could be given.

But it isn't just the invention of new moralities that should concern us, my Lords. It is the attempt to enforce them – to enforce, that is, newly invented standards which are in some cases the exact opposite of the old ones. How else can we explain the ejection of a heckler from a party conference for questioning the government's stance on Iraq, or the attempted silencing of protests on the same subject in Parliament Square? How else can we explain the anxiety not only of religious leaders but also of comedians when faced with that dangerously vague and insidious Religious Hatred legislation? How else can we explain the police investigation of religious leaders such as my Right Reverend colleague the Bishop of Chester, or the Chair of the Muslim Council of Great Britain, for making moderate and considered statements about homosexual practice? And since the crimes in question have to do, not with actions but with ideas and beliefs, what we are seeing is thought crime. People in my diocese have told me that they are now afraid to speak their minds in the pub on some major contemporary issues for fear of being reported, investigated, and perhaps charged. My Lords, I did not think I would see such a thing in this country in my lifetime. All that such a situation can achieve is to add another new fear to those which minorities already experience. The word for such a state of affairs is 'tyranny': sudden moral climate change, enforced by thought police.

That is the situation, my Lords, which faces us now, nationally and globally. But the answer cannot be to repeat the old eighteenth-century slogans of 'tolerance', or 'freedom of speech', as if they were straightforward concepts that would commend themselves and bring us back to sanity. Part of the moral landscape we now inhabit is the fact that the Enlightenment modernism where those concepts found their home has crumbled under the postmodern critique where facts are reduced to spin, where the narrative of 'progress' has been shredded, and where personal identity itself is deconstructed and reconstructed at will. In that climate, we have seen 'tolerance' and 'freedom' reduced to mere licence – and then redefined so that we will not, any longer, tolerate dissent from the new party lines. Intolerant 'tolerance', my Lords, is one of the greatest obstacles to genuine freedom of speech.

Whose freedom are we talking about, anyway? Notoriously, the freedom of my fist ends where the freedom of your nose begins; and similarly the freedom of my speech is curtailed by the freedom of your honour, as the laws of slander and libel have always recognised. Part of the problem of 'freedom of speech' is that it tends to be the media who are most in favour of it – though they themselves often cheerfully censor information that cuts against editorial policy. Freedom of speech, my Lords, is useless if it is only selectively enjoyed, and if it is not combined with appropriate responsibility. If 'freedom of speech' is to be rehabilitiated as a useful concept, it needs to be set within a larger context of social and cultural wisdom. We have to find a way through the postmodern morass, not in order to go back to Enlightenment modernism, but in order to go through and out the other side into the construction of a new world of civility and mature public life. For this, freedom of speech has to be reciprocal; it needs the disciplines of interaction, of patient listening and attention. And that, my Lords, is what you don't get when new moralities are invented overnight and enforced by policemen knocking on the door to see if you're committing a thought-crime.

Within the new world of civility for which we must work, we desperately need to take the religious dimension seriously and not wave it away as irrelevant. We are witnessing at the moment an increasingly shrill attempt to keep religion out of public life, to vilify and outlaw it, whether by the scorn of television pundits or by one leading figure last week reportedly declaring that anyone with a belief in an afterlife ought to be debarred from holding public office. To banish religion to oblivion on the grounds that there is such a thing as fundamentalist violence is like introducing prohibition on the grounds that some teenagers go binge-drinking. I quite see that some secular commentators are now dismayed to discover that neither Christianity nor the other great religions has withered on the vine as they had expected – indeed, as their ideology had demanded. But it is only these late-modern shibboleths, I believe, which are preventing us from realising that healthy religion and healthy public life do truly belong together and that the attempt to keep them apart leads to a dangerous vacuum which may well be filled by unhealthy styles of religion and by unhealthy forms of public life. All this is clearly visible in some parts of America as well as elsewhere. That is why we in the church are committed as a matter of urgency to working on public issues with the other great households of faith; I mention particularly the new Christian-Muslim forum launched last week, to stand alongside the Council of Christians and Jews, the Three Faiths Forum, and other such bodies.

In these initiatives, 'tolerance' is not the point. My Lords, I can 'tolerate' someone standing on the other side of the street. I don't need to engage with them. 'Tolerance' all too easily supposes that all religions are basically the same, and that all of them can be discounted for the purposes of public life. No, my Lords: 'tolerance' is a parody of something deeper, richer and more costly, for which we must work: a genuine and reciprocal freedom, a freedom properly contextualised within a wise responsibility, freedom not to be gratuitously rude or offensive, especially to those who are already in danger on the margins of society, but to speak the truth as we see it while simultaneously listening to the truth as others see it, and to work forwards from there. This is so in matters of religion; it is so in matters of public policy; it is so in matters of sexual morality; and it is so in areas where all those issues, and others, rightly overlap and interlock. And, my Lords, it is precisely that sort of wise, responsible freedom which is at risk if you're afraid that honestly held beliefs, clearly and respectfully expressed, are likely to get you into trouble with the law. My Lords, we must learn fresh wisdom, before the moral climate changes irreversibly, and the sea rises to engulf the moral lowlands where we presently live.



Tuesday, 30 January 2007


In the Tablet article, "Anyone for Confession" (2001), Annabel Miller comments:

To many Catholics today, the idea of entering a box with a man in black, running through a list of sins and emerging forgiven, can smack of a superstitious ritual rather than a process which actually changes anything.

She notes a Parish priest as saying:

Fr Nick Wilde, of Kirkby, Liverpool, reckons that in a single year only about 20 people will come to him for formal, individual confession. The practice has tailed off completely, almost finished, he told me. Fr Wilde is parish priest at St Laurence's church which has a congregation of 250. In his opinion, many practising Catholics have dropped individual confession because they have developed, with the Church's help, a greater sense of self-worth, and are no longer prepared to whisper guilty secrets to a mediating priest. He spoke of the popularity, by contrast, of communal reconciliation services where penitents either make an individual confession during the service or receive general absolution.

She highlights two things which have brought about this change. The first is what one might call the shift from looking at sins as a list to be ticked off, and looking it as a flawed response of the whole person, what one might call the existential perspective. From a personal point of view, there are some things I have done (or failed to do), which I certainly regret, but to see them as "detached" in that they can just be listed like a shopping list, as if they had nothing to do with the kind of person I am, is somehow just missing the point:

Sr Gemma Simmonds, chaplain at Heythrop College in London University, thinks the traditional form of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is being dropped by English Catholics because people do not look at their sins in isolation – three lies, four impure thoughts – but rather see them as part of a whole pattern of living as a necessarily flawed human being. The old way of going to confession made people feel guilty about trivial things without giving them a sense of responsibility for bigger things, she said. It was part of the minutiae of privatised religion.

The second factor she mentions is the "sin cycle", which, of course, I know from experience of non-Catholic polemic, was easily pilloried, with comments that Catholics go to confession, then having wiped the slate clean, are free to behave badly again. However, as with the shopping list approach, this has an element of truth in it, in that that kind of confession loses sight of the larger picture of the flawed nature of human beings in general. Equally, the idea of "mortal sin" as defined is a kind of category that can exist in a simplistic model of sin as act, but breaks down when pressed too strongly, both exegetically (as it depends on an older proof text approach to scripture, and philosophically, as human acts and choices are more complex and manysided than this kind of division suggests:

Another factor in the waning popularity of individual confession is that Catholics used to be taught to go regularly, in order to be eligible to receive Holy Communion in a state of grace. Each week, they engaged in a sin cycle – confession, communion, sin, confession, communion, and so on. The Church no longer insists on such regular confession – though it is forbidden for anyone to receive Holy Communion who has committed a mortal sin and not confessed it. Most ordinary Mass-goers would be hard-pressed to define a mortal sin, and I, for one, have never heard the definition explained from the pulpit.

As a post-Vatican II Catholic convert, I think the call to reiterate the importance of confession without rethinking it, and just trying to restore old forms, is doomed to failure. Miller quotes Dominian who is surely right in his argument:

The psychiatrist Jack Dominian argued that in its insistence on individual reconciliation, Rome is attempting to impose a spiritual form which no longer reflects the people's experience. As the people of God had matured, he wrote, the paternalistic stance of parent to child in the confessional has come to seem unacceptable.

Tom Wright on Issues etc

Christian leaders today sometimes make the mistake of thinking that as long
as they are pursuing the right aims in their public life, what they do in
private doesn't matter so much. That is a typical lie whispered by the same
voice that Jesus heard in the desert.

N.T. Wright, "Luke for Everyone"

Came across this at

That as Brian says is so "spot on"!

Heard Tom Wright on "Issues etc" explaing Paul which great patience and
clarity to a Luthern pastor on a phone interview to the Radio station.
Afterwards, the pastor got in two Lutheran scholars to say they didn't think
he was right on "justification by faith". No reasons given, just polemic and
re-iteration of the Lutheran position. Can't people think? It seemed such a
shame that he had gone out of his way to spend a good 20-30 minutes
explaining what Paul meant but the interviewer did not say "what can we
learn from this" but just rubbished it afterwards. An example, Tom notes
that "the righteousness of God" as God's righteousness and not ours, and
noted that it is never referred to as "the righteousness of Christ" in the
text. He also pointed out problems in understanding parts of Galations and
Romans if one took the Lutheran view. The replies not only reepeatedly
mentioned "the righteousness of Christ" and never cames to grips with the
problems he raised; they just ignored them. Ostrich theology!

Monday, 29 January 2007

"The Concept of God in Africa"

Just been reading some of John Mbiti's "The Concept of God in Africa". Fascinating stuff, extract below. It is amazing how a monistic and not a dualistic idea of God seems so prevalent in so many different African tribal cultures - the book is a massive study of over 300. I would recommend the book to anyone looking to understand African beliefs, and who wants facts, not New Age imaginary constructs. Where Mbiti thinks evidence is sparce or unambigious, he says so!




African peoples do not consider God to be a man, but in order to express certain concepts, they employ anthropomorphic language and images about him as an aid to their conceptualization of him whom they have not seen and about whom they confess to know

little or nothing.




In traditional communities the meaning of kinship-relationship is applied to a much wider radius than the immediate biological implications. This is the social background against which these terms of kinship must be seen when applying them to God. In addition, God is Father in terms of his position as creator and provider.


In a riddle game, the Akamba pose a question: "What are the two equal-sized 'bowls' of the Father?", to which the answer is, "They are heaven and earth". The people do not normally speak of God as Father, but here they visualize him as the one who "fathered" the universe, owns it, and cares for it. The Lunda and others around them speak of God as "the Father Creator who created all countries". In the same region he is known as "the Father Creator who creates and uncreates". The Bemba think of him specifically "as a universal Father", and his people as 'the children of God' "~ The Herero look upon him as the father of their forefathers, but distinct from them. As a caution they add that "He has no father, he is not a man". The Suk say that God "is the universal Father".' For the Akan, ''God is truly Father, and men, in all things, are his children, because he created them". They regard him also as the Father of the lesser divinities. Likewise, the Ganda consider God to be the Father of the divinities." The Banyoro regard him as "the Creator and Father of mankind".' The same belief is reported among the Burji-Konso. In the Ndebele and Shona triads, God is thought of as "The Father, the Mother, and the Son".' We have two examples where the name for God contains the concept of father. These are the Chawai who call him Bawai (derived from "Father" and "sun"); and the Teso who call him Apap (meaning "Father")." These references convey the fatherhood of God in relation to creation.


The concept of God as Father, also comes out in prayers, indicating that people think of him not only as the universal creator-father, but also as the personal Father with whom they communicate and to whom they may turn in time of need. In critical moments, the Azande address God in prayer as "Father". When praying, the Bambuti speak to God as "Father", "Great Father", or "Grand-father". They tell that originally they had no name for the Creator, referring to him only as "Father" or "Grandfather". They have retained these titles, since they still have "no exact name for their conception of God"." Some of the Tswana peoples address God as "Father of my fathers"." Similarly, in prayer the Nuer speak with God as "our Father", whom they regard as "a living Person", although their anthropomorphic conceptions of God are said to be very weak. For the Nuer, God is first and foremost spirit." The Urhobo and Nuba pray to him as "our Father"." At their communal prayers, the Sonjo open their invocations with the phrase "Father God"," The Gikuyu sigh to God as "my Father"; and when the Rabai pray during drought, they address him as "Father"."




Only a few examples of this concept are available, as it seems uncommon. In the previous subsection we mentioned that the Ndebele and Shona have a triad according to which they think of God as Father, Mother, and Son. Our information does not indicate under what circumstances, or in what connection, these peoples think or talk of him in the person of "Mother". The southern Nuba, who have a matrilineal system of descent, refer to God as "the Great Mother", and speak of him (her) in feminine pronouns. Thus, in commending a dying person, they pray, Our God, who has brought us [to this world], May she take you. Here, and in prayers for rain and good crops, they use the same title ("Great Mother") for him. They say that "God gave birth to people", or "God gave birth to the world, earth". This usage of the name, "Great Mother", has two meanings. One carries the concept that God "mothered", created, "gave birth" to the world and to mankind. Secondly, God cares for, nurses, and helps his (her) children in the hour of need (death, drought, etc.). In connection with man's origin, the Ovambo say, "The Mother of pots is a hole in the ground; the Mother of people is God"." The Ovambo are also matrilineal; but they speak of God figuratively as male, though they do not regard him as either Father or Mother as such.




In traditional societies, the person of the "grandfather" and the "elder" is respected for his age, experience, and wisdom. Grand-children are in an intimate and very friendly relationship with him. We find these two titles used of God, with approximately the same meaning as "Father".

The Ashanti say that "of the wide, wide earth, the Supreme Being is the Elder", in the sense that God is superior since he is the Creator of the earth and all things, and is above all things." The Akan honour him with the titles "Grandfather 'Nyame' who alone is the Great one", and "the Grand Ancestor"." These are terms of respect. The Bavenda regard God as the grandfather of their chiefs, and when there is thunder, the chiefs enter their houses and pray, addressing him as "Grandfather"." Before starting on their hunting expeditions, the Bambuti invoke him as "Grandfather" and "Father", titles by which God is known to them.




The Bachwa, who believe that they were the first people on earth, consider themselves as "the Children of God". " When in danger, the Bambuti appeal to God saying, "Father, thy children are afraid . . "  The Bavenda consider their chiefs to be the grand-children of God, a position which entitles them to an intimate relationship with him, since the chiefs are the representatives of the people before God. The Bemba, who think that God is the universal father, call themselves "the children of God". It is reported of them, that "one hears natives calling each other, 'the sons of God' "  The Lugbara look upon their elders as the "children of God", when they function at the shrines at night. They refer to the diviners by the same title, and most of these are women.  Those who observe the rainmaking cult among the Ndebele are referred to as the "children of God" or "people of God"." The Shilluk hold their kingship to be divine, and honour their king with titles like "the first-born of God", "child of God", "reflection of the ancestors", "master of the world", "last-born of God". According to their thinking, the first- and last-born, respectively, opens and closes the way for a generation." The Nuer refer to twins as the "children of God", and to two of their clans as "God's people". When praying, they refer to themselves before God as "thy children". " Among the Tonga, twins are considered a curse and a misfortune, and people refer to them as "God's children". In time of danger, such as thunder and lightning, people in a village say to a twin, "Help us! You are a child of God . . ." The child goes out and prays to God, and when the danger is over, the people thank the child. " This concept of people as the children of God is not expressed widely. Even if people do not speak verbally about it, they make prayers, offerings, and sacrifices in an attitude of "children-father" relationship.




Although friendship is something highly valued in African societies, it is surprising that we do not have many examples where God is spoken of as "Friend". As a sign of an intimate feeling towards God, the Nuer address him as "Friend". Zulu traditional doctors invoke him as "Thou greatest of friends", when dealing with thunderstorms and lightning."




One report from the Shilluk says that God "is from one side spirit, and from the other side spirit, but from front and back he is body". The Aushi imagine him as a person, "to be small—about two feet in height—black and hard like stone"."' The Lugbara say that, in his immanent aspect, God may take on a human form in which he is very tall, with the body split in the middle. A number of peoples attribute eyes to God. The Ganda speak of him as "the Great Eye". But the others take one or more natural objects as the eyes of God. Thus:







Sun (right eye), moon (left eye)










Sun and moon


Friday, 26 January 2007

The Burning Bush

I have always been impressed with Chesterton's argument for the genuine nature of the burning bush story; I think it has considerable weight. Not that it means that the story is to be taken literally like Cecil B De Mille - Chesterton is too subtle for that - but rather than there is some definite truth beyond comprehension described in the story, which is why it comes down to us in that form and is about a real visionary experience.
Here it is (quoted in Maisie Ward's excellent biography):


The Secularist constantly points out that the Hebrew and Christian religions began as local things; that their god was a tribal god; that they gave him material form, and attached him to particular places.


This is an excellent example of one of the things that if I were conducting a detailed campaign I should use as an argument for the validity of Biblical experience. For if there really are some other and higher beings than ourselves, and if they in some strange way, at some emotional crisis, really revealed themselves to rude poets or dreamers in very simple times, that these rude people should regard the revelation as local, and connect it with the particular hill or river where it happened, seems to me exactly what any reasonable human being would expect. It has a far more credible look than if they had talked cosmic philosophy from the beginning. If they had, I should have suspected "priestcraft" and forgeries and third-century Gnosticism.


If there be such a being as God, and He can speak to a child, and if God spoke to a child in the garden, the child would, of course, say that God lived in the garden. I should not think it any less likely to be true for that. If the child said: "God is everywhere; an impalpable essence pervading and supporting all constituents of the Cosmos alike"--if, I say, the infant addressed me in the above terms, I should think he was much more likely to have been with the governess than with God.


So if Moses had said God was an Infinite Energy, I should be certain he had seen nothing extraordinary. As he said He was a Burning Bush, I think it very likely that he did see something extraordinary. For whatever be the Divine Secret, and whether or no it has (as all people have believed) sometimes broken bounds and surged into our world, at least it lies on the side furthest away from pedants and their definitions, and nearest to the silver souls of quiet people, to the beauty of bushes, and the love of one's native place.


When the learned sceptic says: "The visions of the Old Testament were local, and rustic, and grotesque," we shall answer: "Of course. They were genuine."



A Child's Garden of Verses

I always loved "A Child's Garden of Verses" by Stevenson, Robert Louis (1850–1894), and my favourite among them, which i remember reading to my own children so often I can remember the first line off by heart, is this one.
The Moon

THE MOON has a face like the clock in the hall;
She shines on thieves on the garden wall,
On streets and fields and harbour quays,
And birdies asleep in the forks of the trees.
The squalling cat and the squeaking mouse,        
The howling dog by the door of the house,
The bat that lies in bed at noon,
All love to be out by the light of the moon.
But all of the things that belong to the day
Cuddle to sleep to be out of her way; 
And flowers and children close their eyes
Till up in the morning the sun shall arise.

Jersey Immigration

I don't mind people coming over to live in Jersey (Channel Islands), as long as:
1) they are not rich AND want to run a lot of the Island (i.e. speculate in property, business etc), which causes no end of harm with high house prices or high shop rents (Roosters at Quennevais was one in a long line of shops there unable to meet really excessing rents - something like £40,000 per year). As for Dandara, and what they have done to the Island, hmmm.....
2) they don't refer to England as "the mainland". My ancestors 3 generations ago came from "the mainland", and it is France, for anyone with a map. Mind you, when I was at university, some people there thought it was an island off Scotland, for goodness sake!
3) they don't say "we must have party politics", as if that would cure all the Island's political ills. Looking at the sleaze, peerages for sale, etc in the UK, and the way in which the parties can collude (cf Hilair Belloc's "The Party System"), I think that is not an especially better than Jersey, especially as a party can get in with about 30% of the voters who vote in the UK! Both could do with improving.
4) they are not racist, sexist, homophobic etc.
If any Americans read this, and think Jersey always means "New Jersey", go to and learn something!

Agape Supper and sundry matters

Recently had an ecumenical Agape supper which was very good (Methodists, Anglicans, and Catholics all present) - see service below - and guess which prayer I was asked to say and light a candle for! "I light a candle for questioning, for journeying in the wilderness,and living on the edge." I asked if that was deliberate, as they know me rather well! When I went to Guernsey last year, I mentioned I was looking forward to visting the dolmens there that I had not seen before, and Mark, the Rector, said "ah, yes, doing pagan things!" The harvest supper this year had instead of goods, a "talents" auction, and I offered two hours of computer tuition, and a 3 hour tour (with booklet I put together) on the island's dolmens and menhirs. Mind you, the dolmen tour raised £35, so some people are interested!
Go to St Thomas (Catholic) weekdays, and St Brelade weekends for Celtic Evening Prayer. Sometimes St Brelade has a Eucharist instead, and I go to that as well, it runs a policy of being an "inclusive church", which means anyone who wants to come and take part can, regardless of denomination, confirmation etc etc., quite non-discriminatory, as you might expect from a church which has two women priests. As you can see from the bit in the Agape service which mentions "Be with those abandoned by relatives or friends, and bring an end to divisions caused by sexism, racism, ageism, or homophobia."
Reading a lot of T.F. Powys recently, a most interesting writer, and like me, somewhat unorthodox in his beliefs! Other recent reading includes a book on the Carry On Films (not all my reading is serious!) as the kids are at an age when they are enjoying its seaside-postcard style of humour - amazing that they still are popular with children and adults today! Also reading Alec Guiness autobiography gradually, very amusing. Listened to a lot of Radio 4 (my favourite radio station), and Craig Brown's satirical history of Britain "1966 and All That" which is larugh out loud funny. Also re-read Aneuran Bevan's "In Place of Fear" on the health service. Brilliant stuff! Mentioned it to chap in office, and he said "who?". Amazing that people are so historically ignorant.


Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Agape Supper

Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, today at this table.
With friend, with stranger, with young and with old, be among us
Come close to us that we may come close to you.
Forgive us that we may forgive one another.
Renew us so that, where we have failed, we may begin again
At the Last Supper Jesus, sharing
bread and wine, invited the disciples
to share his journey.
Like many grains of wheat becoming
one loaf of bread, the disciples were
invited to become one body with him.
Here today, through bread and wine,
We renew our journey with Jesus and his disciples.
Here today, through bread and wine,
We renew our unity with one another,
and with all those -who have gone before us.
Here today, through bread and wine,
We renew our communion with the earth
and our interwovenness with the broken ones of the world.

Reading 1

The peace that Christ came to
proclaim we now share with one
The peace of the Lord be with you.
And also with vou
Among friends, gathered round a table, Jesus took bread, and,
having blessed it. He broke the bread and gave it to his disciples,
saying, 'This is my body which is given for you'.
So now, following Jesus' example, we take this bread, break it and
give thanks.
As this broken bread was scattered through fields and hills before
being gathered to become one,
So may we and all people be gathered from the ends of the earth
into Christ's kingdom.
(each person breaks bread for their neighbour, and passes the loaf on)

1st course - soup and bread

Jesus also took wine, and, having given thanks for it; he poured it
out and gave the cup to his disciples, saying,
"This cup is the new relationship with God, sealed with my blood.
Take this and share it. I shall drink wine with you next in the
coming kingdom of God'.
As many grapes were mixed to make this wine, we who are many
are united as one in Christ
(each person pours wine into their neightbours glass, and passes the jug of wine on)


(different people come up, light a tea-light candle, and put it in a central tray, around a large church candle)
I light a candle for Jesus, the Christ.
Thanks be to God
I light a candle for the apostles, sent out to be Christ's Church.
Thanks be to God
I light a candle for the scriptures, Hebrew and Christian. In which
we may discern the word that enlivens us.
Thanks be to God.
I light a candle for the wise thinkers - the Fathers and Mothers - of
the early Church.
Thanks be to God.
I light a candle for theologians through the ages: for their learning
and study and new insights.
Thanks be to God
I light a candle for the faithful people of God, in whose love and
lives the ongoing Church of Christ is realised.
Thanks be to God.
I light a candle for worship - colourful and quiet, exuberant and
contemplative. For word and silence, movement and stillness,
singing and sighing.
Thanks be to God.
I light a candle for Christian art, literature, and music, for symbols
which point us to God.
Thanks be to God.
I light a candle for strength of conviction
Thanks be to God.
I light a candle for questioning, for journeying in the wilderness,
and living on the edge.
Thanks be to God.
I light a candle for our rich diversity.
Thanks be to God.
I light a candle for our blessed connectedness in the love of Christ.
Thanks be to God.

Reading 2

2nd course

Reading 3


Loving God, we thank you that whatever our favoured image of
you, Jesus continues to have a talent for breaking out of our
moulds, and ever remains provocative. So, lead us away from the
security of our own comfortable images of Christ, to face the
complex issues of today.
Be with those abandoned by relatives or friends, and bring an end
to divisions caused by sexism, racism, ageism, or homophobia.
Protect us from irresponsible or extreme interpretation of scripture,
and check our emotional responses, we pray.
Above all, challenge us afresh to progress beyond gender divisions
to know the spiritual wholeness of the unity of Christ
In the grace, and empowerment, of the Holy Spirit we pray for our
lives to be so transformed so that we your Church are united as one
body in you, the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our Father who art in Heaven….
God of community, three in one, we offer ourselves: as different
organs in a single body; as many threads in a woven fabric; as
diverse stones in a mosaic; as various instruments in an orchestra;
as myriad drops in a moving river.
We acknowledge our need of one another, our failure when we
act alone; let us find delight in our interdependence and discover
your presence in one another.

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Transfer of old site

All the details at my old site are now at:

Neil Armstrong lands at Lotusphere

Really amazing! 4 KB NOT MB of RAM!!!,1000000169,39285620-39001084c,00.htm

Neil Armstrong lands at Lotusphere

IBM's star guest explained how he used a tiny keyboard and 4KB of RAM to explore space

IBM gave attendees at this week's Lotusphere conference an unexpected treat — a speech from Neil Armstrong on the role technology played in the race to the moon.

Armstrong is a living legend, famous for uttering "That's one small step for man" as he set foot on the moon in 1969. On Monday, he told delegates at IBM's Lotusphere conference in Florida a few tales about the early computers he worked with.

He also cited IBM's contribution to the space programme, by explaining the company's role in the Gemini spacecrafts — in which Armstrong made a trip into space in 1966.

"Gemini was the first manned spacecraft to carry a computer into space. Built by IBM, it didn't have four gigs or four megs [of memory], but just four K [kilobytes]. It is hard to realise just how precious memory was in those days," Armstrong said.

"The computer had 13 keys on the keyboard and its sole output was one seven-digit register, just number, no letters, no sound, no mouse. But it allowed us to compute solutions that we had though impossible," Armstrong explained, marvelling at the power that such a basic machine — in today's terms — could achieve.

"Changing orbits, rendezvousing with another spacecraft, returning to earth to a pre-determined landing spot, all with a primitive, little, 4K machine."

Armstrong's first flight in a rocket plane came when he worked as a test pilot on the Bell X1-B, a derivative of the world's first supersonic plane, the X-1. Armstrong had his first experience with computer technology at that stage, although not computers as we know them today.

"Except for the WWII link trainer, aircraft simulators for training did not exist," said Armstrong, "but they were beginning to be used as a flight test tool". As digital computers were "far too slow to solve aircraft equations of motion in real time", flight simulation, what there was of it, "was dependent on analogue computers. Lightening fast, but not very accurate".

Armstrong's first real space experience came with Gemini. This was the first spacecraft with onboard navigation and guidance, he said, and the basis for the complex computer systems that control the flight of aircraft today.

"Earlier crews navigated by looking out of the window," Armstrong said. "Gemini was the first spacecraft with navigation and that meant adjusting [guidance] and it was the first with radar, the ability to rendezvous with another craft. Gemini was a wonderful little machine and with it I was able to rendezvous with another satellite and make the first two spacecraft dock."

Navigation error
But while the early primitive systems were of enormous benefit to astronauts such as Armstrong, they were anything but infallible.

"In those days we landed in the ocean by parachute, not a particularly elegant arrival and we hoped there would be a ship nearby to pick us up," Armstrong explained with the deadpan look of a man who knows the twist at the end of the tale. "With our navigation system that we now had, we took great pride in landing close to the aircraft carrier. My carrier was located in the Caribbean, I landed near Okinawa."

The error was significant to the mission and made the record books. "That's the furthest anyone has ever been [missed] and I don't expect the record to be broken," Armstrong admitted.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Gay Adoption Row

This is the letter from the Archbishops. It seems as if the government is bent of uniformity in the name of political correctness, which while supposedly supporting the rights of gay people, is in fact promoting a kind of social fascism in which alternative positions are not tolerated. This is so often the case in "political correctness", there is so much need to correct an injustice (i.e. gay couples cannot adopt) that it goes to the other extreme ("no discrimiation against them anywhere regardness of consciences of others").

The Catholic church has enshrined in Vatican II the principle that conscience is the ultimate arbiter of a persons conduct, not the Catholic church.

Yet the Government wants to revert to something very much like saying - as in the Middle Ages - that it is the ultimate arbiter on conscience.

I think that is fascist, and trampling on the rights and sensibilities of its citizens. The last time that was seriously in place was the USSR. Do we want to go back there?





Dear Prime Minister,

The Church of England, along with others in the voluntary sector, including other churches and faith communities, have been in discussion with the government for some time over what has become known as the Sexual Orientation Regulations. Those discussions have been conducted in good faith, in mutual respect and with an appropriate level of confidence on all sides.

Last week that changed. Speculation about splits within government, fuelled by public comment from government ministers, appears to have created an atmosphere that threatens to polarise opinions. This does no justice to any of those whose interests are at stake, not least vulnerable children whose life chances could be adversely, and possibly irrevocably, affected by the overriding of reasoned discussion and proper negotiation in an atmosphere of mistrust and political expediency.

The one thing on which all seem able to agree is that these are serious matters requiring the most careful consideration. There is a great deal to gain. It is becoming increasingly evident, however, that much could also be lost, as the letter from Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor makes clear.

Many in the voluntary sector are dedicated to public service because of the dictates of their conscience. In legislating to protect and promote the rights of particular groups the government is faced with the delicate but important challenge of not thereby creating the conditions within which others feel their rights to have been ignored or sacrificed, or in which the dictates of personal conscience are put at risk.

The rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well meaning.

On numerous occasions in the past proper consideration has been given to the requirements of consciences alongside other considerations contributing to the common good, such as social need or human rights - the right, for example, of some doctors not to perform abortions, even though employed by the National Health Service.

It would be deeply regrettable if in seeking, quite properly, better to defend the rights of a particular group not to be discriminated against, a climate were to be created in which, for example, some feel free to argue that members of the government are not fit to hold public office on the grounds of their faith affiliation. This is hardly evidence of a balanced and reasonable public debate.

As you approach the final phase of what has, until very recently, been a careful and respectful consideration of the best way in which to introduce and administer new protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in England and Wales, we hope you, and cabinet colleagues, will do justice to the interests of the much wider grouping of interests within the nation that will be affected. It is vitally important that the interests of vulnerable children are not relegated to suit any political interest. And that conditions are not inadvertently created which make the claims of conscience an obstacle to, rather than the inspiration for, the invaluable public service rendered by parts of the voluntary sector.

Yours faithfully,

Most Rev and Rt Hon Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury

Most Rev and Rt Hon John Sentamu
Archbishop of York

A Free Health Service

I read this ages ago, and still think it is brilliant!

"In Place of Fear"
A Free Health Service (Chapter 5)
Aneurin Bevan
THE field in which the claims of individual commercialism come into most immediate conflict with reputable notions of social values is that of health. That is true both for curative and preventive medicine. The preventive health services of modern society fight the battle over a wider front and therefore less dramatically than is, the case with personal medicine.
Yet the victories won by preventive medicine are much the most important for mankind. This is so not only because it is obviously preferable to prevent suffering than to alleviate it. Preventive medicine, which is merely another way of saying health by collective action, builds up a system of social habits that constitute an indispensable part of what we mean by civilization. In this sphere values which are in essence Socialist challenge and win victory after victory against the assertions and practice of the competitive society.
Modern communities have been made tolerable by the behaviour patterns imposed upon them by the activities of the sanitary inspector and the medical officer of health. It is true, these rarely work out what they do in terms of Socialist philosophy; but that does not alter the fact that the whole significance of their contribution is its insistence that the claims of the individual shall subordinate themselves to social codes that have the collective well-being for their aim, irrespective of the extent to which this frustrates individual greed.
It is only necessary to visit backward countries, or the backward parts of even the most advanced countries, to see what happens when this insistence is overborne. There, the small well-to-do classes furnish themselves with some of the machinery of good sanitation, such as a piped water supply from their own wells, and modem drainage and cesspools. Having satisfied their own needs, they fight strenuously against finding the money to pay for a good general system that would make the same conveniences available to everyone else.
The more advanced the country, the more its citizens insist on a pure water supply, on laws against careless methods of preparing and handling food, and against the making and advertising of harmful drugs. Powerful vested interests with profits at stake compel the public authorities to fight a sustained battle against the assumption that the pursuit of individual profit is the best way to serve the general good.
The same is true in relation to contagious diseases. These are kept at bay by the constant war society is waging in the form of collective action conducted by men and women who are paid fixed salaries. Neither payment by results nor the profit motive are relevant. It would be a fanatical supporter of the competitive society who asserted that the work done in the field of preventive medicine shows the enslavement of the individual to what has come to be described in the United States as 'statism', and is therefore to be deplored. The more likely retort is that all these are part of the very type of society I am opposing. That is true. But they do not flow from it. They have come in spite of it. They stem from a different order of values. They have established themselves and they are still winning their way by hard struggle. In claiming them, capitalism proudly displays medals won in the battles it has lost.
When we consider the great discoveries in medicine that have revolutionized surgery and the treatment of disease, the same pattern appears. They were made by dedicated men and women whose work was inspired by values that have nothing to do with the rapacious bustle of the stock exchange: Pasteur, Simpson, Jenner, Lister, Semelweiss, Fleming, Domagk, Roentgen - the list is endless. Few of these would have described themselves as Socialists, but they can hardly be considered representative types of the competitive society.

The same story is now being unfolded in the field of curative medicine. Here individual and collective action are joined in a series of dramatic battles. The collective principle asserts that the resources of medical skill and the apparatus of healing shall be placed at the disposal of the patient, without charge, when he or she needs them; that medical treatment and care should be a communal responsibility that they should be made available to rich and poor alike in accordance with medical need and by no other criteria. It claims that financial anxiety in time of sickness is a serious hindrance to recovery, apart from its unnecessary cruelty. It insists that no society can legitimately call itself civilized if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.

Preventable pain is a blot on any society. Much sickness and often permanent disability arise from failure to take early action, and this in its turn is due to high costs and the fear of the effects of heavy bills on the family. The records show that it is the mother in the average family who suffers most from the absence of a free health service. In trying to balance her domestic budget she puts her own needs last.
Society becomes more wholesome, more serene, and spiritually healthier, if it knows that its citizens have at the back of their consciousness the knowledge that not only themselves, but all their fellows, have access, when ill, to the best that medical skill can provide. But private charity and endowment, although inescapably essential at one time, cannot meet the cost of all this. If the job is to be done, the state must accept financial responsibility.

When I was engaged in formulating the main principles of the British Health Service, I had to give careful study to various proposals for financing it, and as this aspect of the scheme is a matter of anxious discussion in many other parts of the world, it may be useful if I set down the main considerations that guided my choice. In the first place, what was to be its financial relationship with national insurance; should the health service be on an insurance basis? I decided against this. It had always seemed to me that a personal contributory basis was peculiarly inappropriate to a national health service. There is, for example, the question of the qualifying period. That is to say, so many contributions for this benefit, and so many more for additional benefits, until enough contributions are eventually paid to qualify the contributor for the full range of benefits.In the case of health treatment this would give rise to endless anomalies, quite apart from the administrative jungle which would pe created. This is already the case in countries where people insure privately for operations as distinct from hospital or vice versa.

Whatever may be said for it in private insurance, it would be out of place in a national scheme. Imagine a patient lying in hospital after an operation and ruefully reflecting that if the operation had been delayed another month he would have qualified for the operation benefit. Limited benefits for limited contributions ignore the overriding consideration that the full range of health machinery must be there in any case, independent of the patient's right of free access to it. Where a patient claimed he could not afford treatment, an investigation would have to be made into his means, with all the personal humiliation and vexation involved. This scarcely provides the relaxed mental condition needed for a quick and full recovery. Of course there is always the right to refuse treatment to a person who cannot afford it. You can always 'pass by on the other side'. That may be sound economics. It could not be worse morals.

Some American friends tried hard to persuade me that one way out of the alleged dilemma of providing free health treatment for people able to afford to pay for it would be to 'fix an income limit below which treatment would be free while those above, must pay. This makes the worst of all worlds. It still involves proof, with disadvantages I have already described. In addition it is exposed to lying and cheating and all sorts of insidious nepotism.

And these are the least of its shortcomings. The really objectionable feature is the creation of a two-standard health service, one below and one above the salt. It is merely the old British Poor Law system over again. Even if the service given is the same in both categories there will always be the suspicion in the mind of the patient that it is not so, and this again is not a healthy mental state.

The essence of a satisfactory health service is that the rich and the poor are treated alike, that poverty is not a disability, and wealth is not advantaged.

Two ways of trying to meet the high cost of sickness are the group insurance and the attachment of medical benefits to the terms of employment. Group insurance is merely another way of bringing the advantages of collective action to the service of the individual. All the insurance company does is to assess the degree of risk in any particular field, work out the premium required from a given number of individuals to cover it, add administrative cost and dividends, and then sell the result to the public. They are purveyors of the law of averages. They convert economic continuity, which is a by-product of communal life, into a commodity, and it is then bought and sold like any other commodity.

What is really bought and sold is the group, for the elaborate actuarial tables worked out by the insurance company are nothing more than a description of the patterns of behaviour of that collectivity which is the subject of assessment for the time being. To this the company adds nothing but its own profits. This profit is therefore wholly gratuitous because it does not derive from the creation of anything. Group insurance is the most expensive, the least scientific, and the clumsiest way of mobilizing collective security for the individual good.

In many countries the law implicitly recognizes this because the insurance company is required to invest some, if not all, of its income in trustee stock, national bonds and debentures. In other words, the company must invest in those properties which bear the strongest imprint of continuous communal action. The nearer the investment approaches to those forms of property which are most characteristic of competitive capitalism, the less the element of collective security, and therefore the less desirable from the point of view of insurance. There never can be a clearer case of the private exploitation of a product publicly produced.

Where medical benefits are attached to employment as a term of the contract the situation is somewhat different. Here is an instance where the workers, as occupational groups, succeed in accomplishing what they have failed to do or not tried to do as enfranchised citizens. It has the one advantage that the employer in such a case will be less eager to lobby against legislation for a national health scheme. He may be inclined to support national proposals because these will make others share part of his burden. As a political tactic, therefore, occupational medical benefits have something to be said for them; and the workers enjoy some protection in the meantime while the national scheme is being held up.

But they are no substitute for a national scheme. An industrial basis is too narrow for the wide range of medical needs which should be met, both for the worker and for his family. The incidence of sickness varies from industry to industry and so do the rates of economic obsolescence and unemployment. We had experience of this in Britain where certain of the Approved Societies under the old National Health Insurance recruited a disproportionate number of members from industries with a high degree of sickness and accident rate and affected by serious industrial depression. The result was that these Approved Societies were compelled to curtail benefits to their members, while other societies with a different industrial composition were able to distribute the full benefits. That situation consequently helped the strong and hurt the weak.

There are two final objections to the methods I have been describing. They create a chaos of little or big projects, all aiming at the same end: assisting the individual in time of sickness. A whole network of strong points emerge, each with a vested interest in preventing a rational national scheme from being created. Thus to the property lobby is added the lobby of those who stand to lose under the national project. In the end they may have. to be bought out at great cost in time, effort and money.

The second objection is even more serious. These schemes all have for their aim the consumption of the apparatus of health. But they leave the creation of that apparatus without plan and central direction. In place of a rational relationship between all its parts, there arises a patch-quilt of local paternalisms. My experience has taught me that there is no worse enemy to the intelligent planning of a national health service, especially on the hospital side. Warm gushes of self-indulgent emotion are an unreliable source of driving power in the field of health organization. The benefactor tends also to become a petty tyrant, not only willing his cash, but sending his instructions along with it.

The other alternative is a flat rate compulsory contribution for all, covering the full range of health treatment, or a limited part of it. There is no advantage whatever in this. It is merely a form of poll tax with all its disagreeable features. It collects the same from the rich and the poor, and this is manifestly unjust. On no showing can it be called insurance.

One thing the community cannot do is insure against itself. What it can and must do is to set aside an agreed proportion of the national revenues for the creation and maintenance of the service it has pledged itself to provide. This is not so much insurance as a prudent policy of capital investment. There is a further objection to a universal contribution, and that is its wholly unnecessary administrative cost, - unless it is proposed to have graduated contributions for graduated benefits, and I have already pointed out the objections to that. Why should all have contribution cards if all are assumed to be insured? This merely leads to a colossal record office, employing scores of thousands of clerks solemnly restating in the most expensive manner what the law will already have said; namely, that all citizens are in the scheme.

The means of collecting the revenues for the health service are already in the possession of most modern states, and that is the normal system of taxation.

This was the course which commended itself to me and it is the basis of the finance of the British Health Service. Its revenues are provided by the Exchequer in the same way as other: forms of public expenditure. I am afraid this is not yet fully understood. Many people still think they pay for the National Health Service by way of their contribution to the National Insurance Scheme. The confusion arose because the new service sounded so much like the old National Health Insurance, and it was launched on the same date as the National Insurance Scheme. Some part of the misunderstanding was caused by the propaganda of the British Medical Association, which warned the people at one time that, although they would be paying their contributions, the Health Service would not be there to meet their needs. There was a certain irony about this, because when the time came for enrolment in the Health Service more than ninety per cent of the population hastened to get their names in, some under the impression, helped by the B.M.A. itself, that they had started paying for it. This gave me some quiet satisfaction.

One of the consequences of the universality of the British Health Service is the free treatment of foreign visitors. This has given rise to a great deal of criticism, most of it ill-informed and some of it deliberately mischievous. Why should people come to Britain and enjoy the benefits of the free Health Service when they do not subscribe to the national revenues? So the argument goes. No doubt a little of this objection is still based on the confusion about contributions to which I have referred. The fact is, of course, that visitors to Britain subscribe to the national revenues as soon as they start consuming certain commodities, drink and tobacco for example, and entertainment. They make no direct contribution to the cost of the Health Service any more than does a British citizen.

However, there are a number of more potent reasons why it would be unwise as well as mean to withhold the free service from the visitor to Britain. How do we distinguish a visitor from anybody else? Are British citizens to carry means of identification everywhere to prove that they are not visitors? For if the sheep are to be separated from the goats both must be classified. What began as an attempt to keep the Health Service for ourselves would end by being a nuisance to everybody. Happily, this is one of those occasions when generosity and convenience march together.

The cost of looking after the visitor who falls ill cannot amount to more than a negligible fraction of £399,000,000, the total cost of the Health Service. It is not difficult to arrive at an approximate estimate. All we have to do is look up the number of visitors to Great Britain during one year and assume they would make the same use of the Health Service as a similar number of Britishers. Divide the total cost of the Service by the population and you get the answer. I had the estimate taken out and it amounted to about £200,000 a year.Obviously this is an overestimate because people who go for holidays are not likely to need a doctor's attention as much as others. However, there it is. for what it is worth and you will see it does not justify the fuss that has been made about it.
The whole agitation has a nasty taste. Instead of rejoicing at the opportunity to practice a civilized principle, Conservatives have tried to exploit the most disreputable emotions in this among many other attempts to discredit socialized medicine.
Naturally when Britons go abroad they are incensed because they are not similarly treated if they need the attention of a doctor. But that also I am convinced will come when other nations follow our example and have health services of their own. When that happens we shall be able to work out schemes of reciprocity, and yet one more amenity will have been added to social intercourse. In the meantime let us keep in mind that, here, example is better than precept.

The National Health Service and the Welfare State have come to be used as interchangeable terms, and in the mouths of some people as terms of reproach. Why this is so it is not difficult to understand, if you view everything from the angle of a strictly individualistic competitive society. A free health service is pure Socialism and as such it is opposed to the hedonism of capitalist society. To call it something for nothing is absurd because everything has to be paid for in some way or another.

But it does mean that the Service is there to be used at the time you need it without payment anxieties. To put it another way, you provide, when you are well, a service that will be available if and when you fall ill. It is therefore an act of collective goodwill and public enterprise and not a commodity privately bought and sold. It takes away a whole segment of private enterprise and transfers it to the field of public administration, where it joins company with the preventive services and the rest of the communal agencies, by means of which the new society is being gradually articulated. Nor should we underestimate the size of the invasion we are making. In Britain there are more than 340,000 workers of various kinds engaged in the National Health Service. It costs about eight pounds per head of the population. But a large proportion of this sum was being paid on private account before the Service started. It is impossible to estimate the exact amount. Some experts in this field go so far as to say they doubt whether there is any real net additional social cost, because of the innumerable harpies who battened on the sick and who are slowly being eliminated. Be that as it may, there is no doubting the magnitude of the enterprise. What is surprising is the smoothness of the transfer and the way it is settling down.

The prophets of disaster have been proved false, as they so often are when new and ambitious ventures are projected.
And now comes the question so frequently asked: do not all these free facilities invite abuse? Whenever I was asked that question I always answered: 'A prerequisite to a study of human behaviour is that human beings should first be allowed to behave.' When the Service started and the demands for spectacles, dental attention and drugs rocketed upwards the pessimists said : 'We told you so. The people cannot be trusted to use the Service prudently or intelligently. It is bad now but there is worse to come. Abuse will crowd on abuse until the whole scheme collapses.'

Those first few years of the Service were anxious years for those of us who had the central responsibility. We were anxious, not because we feared the principles of the Service were unsound, but in case they would not be given time to justify themselves. Faith as well as works is essential in the early years of a new enterprise.

The question uppermost in my mind at that time was whether a consistent pattern of behaviour would reveal itself among the millions using the Service, and how long would it take for this to emerge? Unless this happened fairly soon it would not be possible to put in reliable estimates for the Budget. The first few estimates for the Health Service seemed to justify the critics. Expenditure exceeded the estimates by large amounts, and Mr. Churchill with his usual lack of restraint plunged into the attack. In this he showed less insight than his colleagues, who watched his antics with increasing alarm. They knew the Service was already popular with the people. If the Service could be killed they wouldn't mind, but they would wish it done more stealthily and in such a fashion that they would not appear to have the responsibility.

Ordinary men and women were aware of what was happening. They knew from their own experience that a considerable proportion of the initial expenditure, especially on dentistry and spectacles, was the result of past neglect. When the first rush was over the demand would even out. And so it proved. Indeed, it was proved even beyond the expectations of those of us who had most faith in the Service.

It is not generally appreciated that after only one full year's experience of the Service I was able to put in an estimate which was firm and accurate. This was remarkable. It meant that in so short a space of time we were able to predict the pattern of behaviour of all the many millions of people who would be using the Service in a particular year. Whatever abuses there were, they were not on the increase. From that point on, any increased expenditure on the Service would come from its planned expansion and not from unpredictable use and abuse. We now knew the extent to which the people would use the existing facilities and what it would cost us. The ground was now firm under our feet. Such abuses as there were could be dealt with by progressive administrative pressure.
Danger of abuse in the Health Service is always at the point where private commercialism impinges on the Service; where, for example, the optician is paid for the spectacles he himself prescribes, or the dentist gives an unnecessary filling for which he is paid. Abuse occurs where an attempt is made to marry the incompatible principles of private acquisitiveness with a public service. Does it therefore follow that the solution is to abandon the field to commercialism? Of course not. The solution is to decrease the dependence on private enterprise. The optical service is a case in point.

I have been told by ophthalmic surgeons that opticians prescribe spectacles sometimes when they are not really necessary. This, of course, the opticians hotly resent. The opticians protests would carry more weight if they were not also purveyors of spectacles. They thus make a profit out of their own advice and this tends to cast doubt on the advice itself.

This is an obvious defect in the British Health Service as it is now. I never intended it to remain. The present arrangements have always been regarded as temporary, to be replaced as follows. If the family doctor believes there may be something wrong with your eyes the best person to advise is the ophthalmic surgeon and not the ophthalmic optician. The latter is primarily concerned with those physical abnormalities that lead to defects of vision. The surgeon is interested in the physiological as well as the anatomical aspects. Under the revised scheme the patient would be sent to the surgeon, who would use the optician to give a reading of the eyes and so save his own time. Spectacles would then be provided only if the surgeon thought them necessary. Ophthalmic surgeons tell me that if this scheme were in operation fewer spectacles would be in use. And it would be to the advantage of the patient to be examined by the surgeon in the first instance, for he might find in the eyes evidence of morbidity of wider significance, and thus assist the patient to whatever other treatment might be necessary.

There are other and better ways of dealing with alleged abuses than by throwing in the sponge.
A free Health Service is a triumphant example of the superiority of collective action and public initiative applied to a segment of society where commercial principles are seen at their worst.

'The old system pays me better, so don't interfere.' Who would dare to put it so crudely? But it is as well to keep in mind that a public undertaking of this magnitude is big business. It touches trade and industry at a hundred sensitive points. A striking illustration of this was provided by our efforts to take proper care of the deaf. It had always seemed to me that this affliction had received too little attention. Deafness is a grievous handicap, worse some say even than blindness, though here we must speak with diffidence, because no one who has not suffered both can really judge. But this at least is agreed: deafness causes much personal suffering and industrial loss. The mechanical aids to deafness were often deficient, and always too expensive for all but a tiny section of those in need.

The way that seemed to offer the best chance of success was to bring the hearing specialist and the aural technicians into conference with each other, to see if a satisfactory aid could be devised, which could then be put into mass production and distributed through the hospitals. The effort met with outstanding success. By September 1951, one hundred and fifty-two thousand aids had been distributed and the users are enthusiastic about them. They cost approximately one tenth of those on sale commercially. There is no reason why, after the home demand has been met, they should not prove the basis of a thriving export trade.

By bulk ordering of common essentials and cutting out unnecessary retail profit margins, as in the instance given, substantial economies can be made.

It is significant that few Conservatives mention this side of the Health Service. They are silent where economies could be made at the expense of profits. The possibilities of bulk ordering of whole ranges of hospital equipment and necessities, such as blankets and linen, were realized early in the development of the scheme. In order to extend the advantages of this over a wider field of public expenditure the Supply Department of the Ministry of Health was made responsible for the medical needs of the Armed Forces. When all these are fully integrated, the result should make a significant impact on the private sector of the industries affected. The manufacturers will be afforded a reliable estimate of the requirements of the public authorities and can adjust their production flows accordingly, while improved specifications should improve quality and reduce cost.

But the hardest task for any public representative charged with the duty of making a free Health Service available to the community is overcoming the fears, real and imaginary, of the medical profession. His task is to reconcile the general public interest with their sectional claims. No pressure groups are more highly organized in Britain than the professions, and among these the medical professions are the strongest.

I was anxious to ensure that the general practitioner should be able to earn a reasonable living without having to aim at a register which would be too large to admit of good doctoring. To accomplish this I suggested a graduated system of capitation payments which would be highest in the medium ranges and lower in the higher. This would have discouraged big lists by lessening the financial inducement. The B.M.A. refused this, although now I am told they are ready to reopen the question. Had they agreed at the time the position of doctors in the overdoctored areas of the country would have been made easier as redistribution over the country as a whole gradually took place.

I have a warm spot for the general practitioner despite his tempestuousness. There is a sound case for providing a little more money to help the doctor with a medium list who wants to make a decent living and yet be a good doctor. The injection of several million pounds here would refresh the Service at its most vulnerable point: that is, the family. doctor relationship. The family doctor is in many ways the most important person in the Service. He comes into the most immediate and continuous touch with the members of the community. He is also the gateway to all the other branches of the Service. If more is required than he can provide, it is he who puts the patient in touch with the specialist services.

He is also the most highly individualistic member of the medical world. As soon as he leaves medicine he seems to think in slogans. These are shot through with political animus of the most violent description - usually Conservative. I speak here primarily of the British Medical Association. The Medical Practitioners' Union on the other hand is a progressive body, affiliated to the Trades Union Congress and more up-to-date in its views. But it was with the B.M.A. I had to negotiate. I usually met its representatives when they had come hot from a conference at which the wildest speeches had been made, frequently by the very men who then had to try to come to terms with the people they had been so immoderately denouncing.

I enjoyed the challenge. My trade union experience had taught me to distinguish between the atmosphere of the mass demonstration and the quite different mood of the negotiating table. I was therefore able to discount a great deal of what had been said from the rostrum. Also it was easy for me to enable them to win victories, for they had usually worked themselves up into a fever of protest against proposals which had never been made. Thus they would 'never be made into civil servants'. . As I never intended they should, I was able to concede the point without difficulty.

Then there must be 'free choice of doctor'. I myself was most anxious to insist on this, for I saw in it one of the most important safeguards for the public. The right of the patient to leave his doctor and choose another whenever he liked had a double edge that the B.M.A. spokesmen did not fully appreciate until later. Then there was the demand for full rights of free expression of opinion, both about the Health Service and anything else. To this again I was most ready to respond, as it had never occurred to me that anything otherwise had been intended.
And so it went on from one blown-out slogan to another. Indeed, I warned the leaders of the profession that they were making a
fundamental mistake in strategy. They were mobilizing their forces to fight a battle that was never likely to begin. When later I was able to make a considered statement in Parliament giving a solemn undertaking to abide by principles that were my own from the very start, the B.M.A. found its forces leaving the field just when the crucial stage in the struggle was reached.

In speaking of the medical profession I must not be thought to be speaking at the same time of the individual men and women who make it up: In their case, as in so many others, the psychology of the profession as a whole is not the sum of its individual parts. Indeed, this seems to be much more the case with doctors than with other social groups. In my dealings with them I was soon made aware of two curious streams of thought. In the first place the general public has no great faith in the medical profession considered as a collectivity, which in no way interferes with a warm attachment between individual doctors and patients. Statesmen anxious to establish a free Health Service should keep that in mind. In a conflict between the profession and the general public the latter will always win if they are courageously led. The pretensions of the medical profession as a special social group are resented by the' generality of citizens. They savour too much of caste and privilege. The practice of medicine is still so much more an art than a science that its practitioners do not seem to the laity to be justified in the atmosphere with which they are apt to surround themselves. There is a good deal of hit and miss about general medicine. It is a profession where exact measurement is not easy and the absence of it opens the mind to endless conjecture as to the efficacy of this or that form of treatment.

The doctors themselves insist on this element of unpredictability in the response of individual patients to various forms of treatment. They affirm that individuals differ so much that there is always a high subjective content in the practice of medicine. This arises in a variety of ways; in the medical history of the patient, his work, his relations with his family and with the society of which he is a member. All these apparently have to be taken into account in diagnosis and treatment. This we accept, and indeed it is fairly obvious. What is not so obvious is that the average doctor is equipped by his general education and by temperament to make an assessment of so many imponderables. He requires for this delicate task imaginative sympathy, sensitivity, and a1iberal education; and these are not so widespread in the profession as many of us would like to see. That there are such gifted persons we know, and they are of infinite benefit to suffering mankind. But in this field, with its margin of error, the quack, the charlatan and the ill-equipped also flourish, and there are few tests the layman can apply to safeguard himself.

In my discussions with many of the best members of the medical professions in Britain they have individually always been ready to admit this with true scientific humility. But the margin of possible error which is part of their daily experience does not free them from what can only be described as a collective arrogance. This is accompanied by waves of something approaching mass hysteria whenever proposals affecting their profession are advanced. We saw it in Britain, we have seen it in Australia and, New Zealand, and now it appears to have the medical profession of the United States in its grip.

In dealing with the medical profession it is wise to make a distinction between three main causes of opposition to the establishment of a free National Health Service. There is the opposition which springs from political opinion as such. This is part of the general opposition of Conservative ideas, and it is strong in the medical profession, though the expression of it tends to be supercharged with the emotions borrowed from other fears and ambitions. Second, there is the defence of professional status and material reward. The latter, of course, they share with other pressure groups. Then, thirdly, there is the opposition which springs from the fear that lay interference might affect academic freedom and come between the doctor and his patient. The third group is the most legitimate and will unite all the members of the medical world, from the self-seeking to the truly idealistic. Any health service which hopes to win the consent of the doctors must allay these fears. The fear of state interference in academic matters is very strong in the Western world, although it tends to ignore the power that patronage already has to influence the pattern of medical investigation. Nevertheless, entitlement to advancement on grounds of merit alone, free from any tinge of political nepotism, must be jealously guarded by any self-respecting profession. Nor should less informed opinion be allowed to influence the medical curriculum. Here there is no substitute for the refreshment of renovating influences within the profession itself. Freedom of discussion and a readiness to add to, and receive from, the corpus of accepted knowledge, are the only ways we have yet discovered to safeguard what we have gained, and to open ways to new discoveries. The medical profession is cautious, some say unduly so, in accepting new ideas. This has been impressed upon me over and over again by those who claim to have discovered methods of treatment and cure other than those normally practised by the profession. On the other hand, it is my experience that unorthodox practitioners are often the worst quacks, and when offered a fair hearing, unwilling to expose themselves to the disciplines of controlled experiment and verification. As a general rule they advance testimony in place of evidence and credibility in place of informed conviction.

There is no alternative to self-government by the medical profession in all matters affecting the content of its academic life, although there is every justification for lay co-operation in the economy in which that is carried out. The distinction between the two is real. It is for the community to provide the apparatus of medicine for the doctor. It is for him to use it freely in accordance with the standards of his profession and the requirements of his oath.

This is also the case with respect to the relations between the doctor and his patient. A great deal of nonsense has been talked about this. There never has been any danger that socialized medicine would destroy the privacy of doctor-patient relationship. Such a danger would indeed rupture a health service from the start. The privacy rightly accorded a patient under a health service is much more than is often the case in, for example, private insurance. The consulting room is inviolable and no sensible person would have it otherwise.

The defects in the Health Service that have been brought to light by practical experience lie in quite other directions. Although it is essential to retain parliamentary accountability for the Service, the appointment of members of the various administrative bodies should not involve the Minister of Health. No danger of nepotism arises, as no salaries are attached to the appointments, but election is a better principle than selection. No Minister can feel satisfied that he is making the right selection over so wide a field.
The difficulty of applying the principle of election, rather than selection, arises from the fact that no electoral constituency corresponds with the functional requirements of the Service. This is particularly so in the case of hospital organization. Hospitals are grouped in such a way that most, if not all, the different medical specialties are to be found within a given area.
A solution might be found if the reorganization of local government is sufficiently fundamental to allow the administration of the hospitals to be entrusted to the revised units of local government. But no local finances should be levied, for this would once more give rise to frontier problems; and the essential unity of the Service would be destroyed.
Another defect of the Service, which was seen from the beginning, is the existence of pay beds in hospitals. The reason why this was tolerated at all was because it was put to me by the representatives of the royal colleges that in the absence of pay-bed sections in the hospitals the specialists would resort in greater measure to nursing homes. As the full range of medical facilities are available only in the hospitals as a general rule, the specialists should be there, on the spot, as much as possible. The argument is sound, but there can be no doubt that the privilege has been abused. Pay beds are a profitable source of income to the specialists, and there is therefore a disposition to prefer patients who can afford them at the expense of others on the hospital waiting lists. The number of pay beds should be reduced until in course of time they are abolished, unless the abuse of them can be better controlled. The number of 'amenity beds' should be increased. These are beds for which the patient pays a small sum for privacy alone, all the other services being free. These changes would mean a loss of revenue to the National Health Service, but they would cut out a commercial practice which undermines the principle of equality of treatment that is fundamental to the whole conception of the scheme.
Doubtless other defects can be found and further improvements made. What emerges, however, in the final count, is the massive contribution the British Health Service makes to the equipment of a civilized society. It has now become a part of the texture of our national life. No political party would survive that tried to destroy it.
Since this chapter was written, new legislation on the National Health Service has been announced. It confirms our worst fears. If they are carried out the proposals will mutilate the Service in many of its most important activities. There is, however ample evidence that the British people are reacting sharply against them. This sustains my contention that no government that attempts to destroy the Health Service can hope to command the support of the British people. The great argument about priorities is joined and from it a free Health Service is bound to emerge triumphant.